The Cost of Student Living

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WORDS Michelle Zirkzee

The clichés of broke students are abundant: Images of ramshackle housing and instant noodles for dinner are just the first to spring to mind. Living at home is not an option for all, and government support just about covers the rent, with little to spare. Mozo, a website about saving money, argues that perhaps we are our own worst enemy and that there are ways to actually save. A Mozo blogpost ‘The High Price of Student Vice’ suggests that if students cut back on beer, take-away and coffee (among other things) savings could be in the thousands – even enough for a deposit for a home loan at the end of our degree.

Although Mozo seems to draw on yet another student cliché – the party animal, the general idea of finding ways to save money is a timeless issue. The webpage estimates that over the course of the year, two nights out per week will cost $5,200. They suggest cutting this back to one night and save $2,600. Per night, this figure is $50 – and would cover transport, drinks, and probably an entry fee. If your preference is not to cut down on your nights out, there may be other ways to make the dollars add up. Walking to your local pub, taking advantage of the Ubar’s free entry for Macquarie University students, and setting a budget for the night by carrying cash and leaving your key-cards at home are just some strategies that could be used.

For the caffeine lovers, bringing your own reusable cup into the university will save you 30c at venues such as Marxine’s, Wally’s and the Globe Café. At, say, four cups a week, 26 weeks a year over two semesters may seem like a measly $31.20. However if someone offered you that amount to take right here and now, would you refuse it? Alternatively, there are places around the University such as at the Globe Café that has free boiling water available – great for tea lovers and those that don’t mind instant coffee. Calculate how much that would save you!

Those Greenies could just be worth listening to, as the cost of bottled water is outrageous – more than petrol per litre. Yet just about every building on campus has a place to fill up your own bottle with fresh, cool water – why are we still paying through the nose for a basic need? They also suggest switching off lights and not leaving appliances on standby – who wouldn’t want to reduce the electricity bill?

Saving money can also be as simple as swapping a $2-$3 chocolate bar for a 50c (on average) piece of fruit. Need more be said?

Another ‘vice’ of students, and probably most people, is to save time by buying take away regularly. Mozo estimates that five takeaways every week adds up to $3,300 annually, or approximately $20 a meal. It’s generally understood that cooking for yourself saves money – at about $5-$10 per meal, but how can it save time? Making a big batch of a favourite dish and storing some in the freezer for quick reheating rather than cooking small amounts daily saves hours. Moreover, there are microwaves around campus to heat food – five opposite the food court, five more if you just head down the stairs, two at the Globe Café and twelve in the Atrium.